Written Dec 2nd, 2013 by Franco Varriano
Practitioner Spotlight: Dr. Alanna Dyment, ND
This is a blog series profiling the philosophies, practices, and work spaces of integrative health professionals. This week we spoke with Dr. Alanna Dyment, ND.
Alanna Dyment is a Naturopathic Doctor with a small but growing practice in Manotick, Ontario. She attended SCNM in Tempe, Arizona.
Why did you become an ND?
I always wanted to be a doctor and run my own business. Growing up I always saw an ND, so when I thought about what type of doctor I would be, it wasn’t a question, I was going to be an ND.
How do you measure success as a practitioner?
By the success of my patients. My favourite days are days patients report how well they have been doing on their treatment plan. I love helping people achieve wellness!
I think being a great practitioner means being a great listener. It also means being flexible and being able to adapt your practice to your patients needs. One of the greatest things about being a naturopath is that we have a whole toolbox of modalities to use. Some patients gravitate towards one modality more than another. However, sometimes I think the most therapeutic thing we do is listen to people and really understand their problems and their health goals.
Who are your mentors?
Joe Kellerstein, ND, DC is my mentor. I love classical homeopathy and have learned a lot from Joe. I would say I have lots of people I can reach out to though. Whenever I’m stumped on something I can usually find the answer within my network of colleagues, but if not I still email some of my profs from SCNM to ask for feedback.
Tell us a bit about your practice.
I am a solo ND but there are other massage therapists that work in our office. I really enjoy the camaraderie of having other practitioners to eat lunch and chat with.
I also enjoy collaborating with other providers like medical doctors on patient cases. I think it’s in the best interest of the patient if we all have the same end-goal for the patient: wellness.
I don’t do any home visits, but I do have a few patients I treat through “virtual visits” over the phone or Skype (primarily homeopathy).
I don’t currently have an office manager, but I would love to have one. Right now it doesn’t make economic sense for my business since I try to run a lean practice and automate daily tasks as much as possible, but when the time comes I think I will explore the option of a virtual assistant.
“Running a lean practice without an office manager just means I have to be diligent every day to optimize my own time.”
What are the essentials for a successful practice?
Staying lean. As a new practitioner with tons of student debt, making sure my practice had as little overhead as possible was really important. I rented a small space in an office that was likely to bring in referrals, and limited my marketing efforts to only opportunities that allow me to talk to people one-on-one or in small groups, as I feel this generates the most leads.
I created a rudimentary business plan before I started my business that helped me find the best location for my practice. Part of the reason we live in Manotick was because of the lack of naturopaths servicing the area, in addition to an above average per capita income.
I also think as naturopaths we offer amazing care and deserve to be compensated fairly. One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing naturopaths say they undercharge their patients. I didn’t become an ND to get rich (I don’t think any of us do), but I am interested in creating a successful practice that will be sustainable and provide a comfortable income.
“I hear ND’s talk about how they struggle to keep their doors open and it frustrates me. I have heard statistics that 50% of ND’s stop practicing within 5 years of graduating. As an industry, it is for the greater good of the population if we are able to run a successful and sustainable business.”
My message to new ND’s and any seasoned ND reading this would be to not be afraid to charge what your time is really worth!
Lastly, I find that simple “How are things going?” follow-up emails to patients are very effective. This is something I am currently struggling with because of the time it takes as my patient load grows, but I still manage to get it done. It helps encourage more interactions with my patients, while also helping them feel supported with their goals and showing them I care.
Do you have any rituals to get ready for a busy day?
I always like to review charts and plan ahead so I can be ready for who is coming in that day. In the morning I’m always feeling fresh and ready to see patients but by the end of the day I can be emotionally and physically drained, so after work meditation is beneficial.
What software do you use in your clinic?
The first and obvious one is Fullscript. Full disclosure: I am a co-founder. I use the virtual dispensary for dispensing natural health products to my patients. I helped start the company 3 years ago with my husband and his business partner to fill a need while I was starting my practice. Since I believe in a “lean practice” and keeping a low overhead, it didn’t make sense to stock physical inventory that I didn’t have room for and may expire or never sell, plus I didn’t have capital to invest in inventory since most suppliers require a minimum order size to make it economical.
For communication I use my personal cell phone and don’t have a separate business line. I also have a MyFax account so that I receive faxes to my email, which makes uploading documents to my EMR easy. I wish people would stop using fax completely; it’s a dead technology everywhere except the medical profession.
For appointment booking, I have a simple Wufoo form embedded on my website that allows my patients to request a time. This isn’t a true “booking” software and may seem inefficient since I’m not able to pencil in my availability. It simply means I have to respond to each request and confirm with the patient a time that works, but this is the best option at the current time since my hours tend to be sporadic. When I use move to a real booking software I’ll probably use Schedulicity.
My website itself is “responsive”, which means it displays differently depending what type of device you are on (desktop vs tablet vs mobile). About 30% of my website traffic comes from a phone or tablet, so having a responsive website helps create a more user-friendly experience for those people.
For marketing, I have a monthly e-newsletter that I send to my patients using MailChimp (free for up to 12,000 subscribers). The bulk of my new patients tend to come from word-of-mouth referrals and Google. I don’t spend any money on paid ads (online or offline) but tend to receive a lot of organic search traffic on my website. Lots of patients also find me through my listing on FindANaturopath.com.
What are your favorite sources of information?
To help keep a pulse on the industry I get most of my news from NatChat (a Yahoo group run by Dr. Mona Morstein, NDNR, and Facebook groups like Canadian Academy of Homeopathy, Naturopathic Doctor Sanctuary, and Naturopathic Physicians.
If you weren’t an ND what would you have been?
A kindergarten teacher. I feel like being around kids make you appreciate the smaller things in life. Their excitement is contagious.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I’m happy with how things have gone so far, although I’ve only been practicing for 18 months so I still have lots to learn.
If I had any advice for new grads or other ND’s starting their practice, I would say get comfortable charging for your time and keep a low overhead. Running a lean practice just means you have to be highly efficient with your own time management.